Retaining wall type

Masonry retaining wall

About masonry retaining walls

A traditional gravity masonry retaining wall uses the mass of the brickwork/masonry to retain the earth behind it.

A masonry retaining wall can be built using a number of materials. The mass or weight of the bricks or blocks will determine the size of the wall required.

The example in our design guide is using class A engineering bricks that are quite heavy and work well.

Victorian railway engineers used this type of wall construction when they built large retaining walls for the railways; you can still see them today.

Masonry retaining walls can be built by a local builder. No specialist equipment or techniques are required, just the skills of a bricklayer.

The reason most masonry retaining walls fail is that they have not been designed correctly. We can provide a design service, click here to get an initial quote.

Hydrostatic pressure

It is essential to allow any water at the back of the retaining wall to flow away. This can be done by putting a perforated drainage pipe at the back of the wall or building in weep holes.

The back of the wall needs to be filled with clean stone or gravel again to allow water to drain through to the drainage pipe or weep hole.

A build-up of water behind the wall causes hydrostatic pressure that can cause the wall to fail.

The table below shows typical designs for a number of different height walls.

Masonry retaining wall design guide

Height (mm) 600 900 1200 1500 1800 2100
Brick Type Class A Class A Class A Class A Class A Class A
Step Width (mm) 112 112 215 215 215 215
Base Width (mm) 1050 1050 1250 1500 1700 1800
Base Depth (mm) 200 200 300 300 300 300
Base Top Steel None None A393 A393 B785 B785
Surcharge 10kn/m² 10kn/m² 10kn/m² 10kn/m² 10kn/m² 10kn/m²
Factor Of Safety M=1.5 M=1.5 M=1.5 M=1.5 M=1.5 M=1.5
Sketch Masory-Table sketch 1 Masory-Table sketch 2 Masory-Table sketch 3 Masory-Table sketch 4 Masory-Table sketch 5 Masory-Table- sketch 6

The design table presents indicative designs based upon a base material with allowable bearing pressure of >200kPa.

The retained material is assumed to be well graded, granular backfill with the back of wall drainage or weep holes to relieve hydrostatic pressure.

All indicative information presented in this table is based upon assumed loading and ground conditions. This table is for guidance purposes only and may be subject to change following a detailed, site-specific design developed by an approved structural engineer.

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    Compare prices of retaining wall types

    Which retaining wall type is the most economical to build? We have written a free guide on retaining wall price comparisons. The guide details the different types of retaining walls and gives you a price estimate of each type to compare.

    Retaining wall price comparison guide

    Retaining wall design service

    The design of a retaining wall requires knowledge of the retaining material, the water table, the ground bearing capacity and any site constraints. The design requires a ground investigation and a structural engineer to ensure the design is fit for purpose.

    We offer a full design service from carrying out the ground investigation to final working drawings.

    Learn about our retaining wall design service

    FAQs about masonry retaining wall

    What is a masonry retaining wall?

    A masonry retaining wall is a retaining wall built from Bricks, blocks, stone and precast art stone. They come in two design method.

    • Gravity for heights below 1m
    • Soil reinforced for height above 1m

    Masonry retaining wall are ideal for gardens as they can be built by hand and do not require heavy plant such as cranes to build.


    How much does a masonry retaining wall cost?

    The cost to build a masonry retaining wall changes with the height of the wall, scale of project, location of the project and any site constraints.

    We do have a comprehensive price table and budget calculator in our price guide. The price guide costs change over time so we keep it in one document.

    You can download the document from this link. Get the price guide.

    What is soil reinforcement?

    Soil reinforcement is when you lay layers of soil over a geogrid. The geo mat is a plastic grid that stops the soil shearing. The layer are normally 300 to 600 in depth depending on the wall design. The reinforced soil acts as the retaining wall. The geogrid is also tied into the blocks.

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